by GK Strategy 2nd August, 2017

Costly campaigns won’t solve our impending public health crisis – but what about health tech?

“The future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health.” – NHS Five Year Forward View.

The NHS is a victim of its own success. People are living longer and with more complex conditions, placing huge strain on the health service.

There are currently 11.6 million people in the UK aged 65 and over and by 2030, this will rise to 20 million. Today, treating the over 65s accounts for 40% of the NHS budget, some £46bn, with those figures only set to increase.

If current trajectories persist then demand will soon overtake supply and so a fundamental step change is required. Fortunately, it is coming in the form of a public health revolution.

There are hundreds of health tech companies innovating to solve major public health crises. From Bluetooth-connected nicotine patches and blood pressure monitors to the Fitbit exercise and weight monitor, the wearable health technology market is booming, expected to be valued at £26bn by 2020.

Real time-monitoring and wearable health technology have the power to fundamentally change the UK healthcare landscape, shifting attitudes towards preventative care and empowering individuals to take care of their own health.

The raison d’être of the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) is to transform local health economies by integrating health and social care. Naturally, public health plays a critical role in this holistic approach.

The first ratings of STPs were announced by NHS England last week and GK Strategy analysis has revealed that 80% of those rated “outstanding” discuss the importance of self-care and preventative care through digital enablement. Previous GK analysis has also shown 75% of STP plans highlight tech as a top priority or key enabler of core STP aims.

But whilst the market is booming, the onus is currently on the consumer – the general public – to purchase the product and the Government has thus far shirked responsibility, cutting real-terms public health budgets by 5% since 2013/14.

If the Government and the NHS are really serious about tackling the public health crises on the horizon, they must firstly partner with health tech companies to reach the patients who will benefit the most. Secondly, the Government must be proactive and encourage health tech businesses to innovate by making more funding available for research and development collaborations.

However, it is also important businesses identify and takes advantage of funding opportunities that currently exist, such as the £100 million for NHS Digital Exemplars and the latest allocation of STP funding likely to be announced in the Autumn Budget.

Preventative care involves an upfront cost and despite saving valuable NHS resource and delivering better health outcomes in the long-term, it is a difficult message to articulate to public sector organisations who are concerned about immediate financial pressures. The health tech market is also a complex and competitive environment to navigate, and with the industry set to boom, differentiating between businesses will be more difficult than ever.

But it’s a two-way street. Off the back of both the Carter and Wachter Reviews, there is a significant appetite for greater partnership from the public sector, but health tech companies are yet to find a way of truly harnessing this. These partnerships are the future of public health. The government needs to seek and fund transformative collaboration wherever possible and businesses need to define their offer more clearly to help the public sector understand the true benefits that partnership brings.

Be in no doubt, whilst there will always be a place for your standard public health awareness campaign, the real future of public health lies in empowering individuals to take control and manage their health and medical conditions using the technology of tomorrow. Both government and business have a long way to go to fully understand the role they can both play, but the potential is worth the upfront investment.

Are you a healthtech company looking to partner with the public sector? Get in touch with andy@gkstrategy.com

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